It wasn’t that long ago that the Raiders had big holes on their roster and it was easy to predict which way general manager Reggie McKenzie might lean with his first pick in the draft.
In recent years, quarterback, wide receiver, the pass rush and the secondary were huge areas of concern, and McKenzie reeled in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack and several cornerbacks to address the voids.
But where does McKenzie go with this year’s No. 1 pick, the 14th overall in the first round?
After a big free-agency haul this offseason, it’s tough to say. The Raiders signed linebacker Bruce Irvin to help the pass rush, brought in a top-flight corner in Sean Smith, a top run-blocking guard in Kelechi Osemele and a Pro Bowl safety in Reggie Nelson. Those signings don’t address all the Raiders’ offseason needs, but they certainly have targeted very specific areas.
Now, with his top pick, McKenzie can afford to select the best player available. As Gary Davenport, an NFL analyst for Bleacher Report, noted recently, mock drafters are all over the board with the Raiders, with no clear consensus. What McKenzie does will mostly depend on who’s left when Oakland is on the clock. As Davenport pointed out, four mock drafts last week from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and CBS had the Raiders aiming for a cornerback, offensive tackle or defensive tackle. Other mocks have them reaching for an inside linebacker, running back or safety.
Tweeted Aaron Nagler of Sports Illustrated: “Reggie McKenzie has done a great job ensuring that he isn’t going to be boxed in by need on draft day.”
Tyler Green of SB Nation recently analyzed the Raiders roster and what McKenzie has done this offseason and came to the same conclusion, writing, “For the first time in recent memory, the Raiders will be drafting without any prominent holes to fill.”
So, even if the Raiders have fortified their offensive line to make it appear – on paper – as one of the best in the NFL, McKenzie could bring in an elite-level tackle with the first pick to challenge Austin Howard or Menelik Watson on the right side, or a running back to push Latavius Murray or an inside linebacker to battle Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball or a corner to challenge David Amerson.
Wrote Green: “Not having to worry about addressing any major needs in the draft allows great flexibility.”